The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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TUESDAY, MARCH 28, 2017
NUNES’S WHITE HOUSE MEETING PROMPTS RECUSAL CALLS

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) acknowledged Monday that he had made a secret visit to the White House last week to meet with a source and view intelligence files he then cited as proof of potentially improper spying activity against President Trump. The revelation cast further doubt on the independence of a congressional investigation into Russian election interference and prompted calls by Democrats, including Nunes’s Democratic counterpart on the intelligence committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, for Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation.

Nunes said he used a secure facility on the White House grounds to meet last Tuesday with his source, a person whose name wasn’t disclosed. He insisted his actions represented “nothing new” and that lawmakers frequently travel to executive branch offices to view classified documents. “I wasn’t sneaking around,” he said in an interview on CNN. On Tuesday evening, President Trump tweeted that the House committee should be looking into “the Bill & Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia,” among other issues, writing “Trump Russia story is a hoax.” Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times
TERRORISM CHARGES FOR MAN ACCUSED OF KILLING BLACK MAN IN NYC
A 28-year-old professed white supremacist who said he came to New York City to kill black people faces terrorism- and hate crime-related murder charges in last week’s fatal stabbing death of Timothy Caughman, the Manhattan DA announced Monday. James Harris Jackson was charged with one count each of murder in the first and second degrees as an act of terrorism in New York State Supreme Court. CNN, NBC News

KUSHNER TO FACE CONGRESSIONAL QUESTIONING OVER RUSSIA MEETINGS
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, has agreed to answer questions before the Senate Intelligence Committee over several meetings he had with Russian officials in the run-up to the inauguration, including the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. It was reported Monday that Kushner also privately met in December with the chief executive of a Russian bank being targeted by U.S. sanctions. Sergey Gorkov, the chairman of VneshEconomBank, or VEB, has close ties to the Russian government and was appointed to his job by Russian President Vladimir Putin. CNN

Device ban on flights: The Guardian reports that the US-UK ban on selected electronic devices from the passenger cabins of flights from some countries in North Africa and the Middle East was partly prompted by a previously undisclosed plot involving explosives hidden in a fake iPad. Guardian


U.S. WILL SEND 200 MORE SOLDIERS TO IRAQ TO HELP RETAKE MOSUL
Military officials said Monday that the U.S. will send some 200 additional soldiers to Iraq to support the Iraqi military’s push to retake western Mosul from ISIS. The troops will reinforce the more than 5,000 troops the United States already has in Iraq. The primary mission will be to protect the United States’ continuing effort to advise and assist Iraqi forces as they push into western Mosul. New York Times
Related:
Washington Post editorial: A U.S. Airstrike May Have Killed Hundreds in Mosul. That’s No Way to Win a War.
Washington Post: Amid Reports of Increased Civilian Deaths, Military Says No Changes to Air Rules

Syria: Syria has reportedly threatened Israel with SCUD strikes if Israel carries out further airstrikes in the country. Business Insider


‘NO EVIDENCE’ LONDON ATTACKER WAS CONNECTED TO ISIS, AL QAEDA
The UK’s Met Police said Tuesday that “no evidence” has been found of a link between Westminster attacker Khalid Masood and radical Islamist terror groups like ISIS or al Qaeda. Detectives also raised doubts over earlier reports that Masood was radicalized during a spell in prison. The Telegraph reports that Masood was investigated six years ago by the police in connection with a plot to blow up an Army base in Luton using a remote-controlled car. He lived not far from one of the convicted ringleaders.  Independent, BBC News, Telegraph

Turkey referendum: A new poll ahead of Turkey’s constitutional referendum on April 16 gives the opposition “no” vote a slight edge. The referendum is over a proposal to change Turkey's constitution to increase President Tayyip Erdogan’s powers. Al Monitor


ROUHANI VISITS MOSCOW AS IRAN AND RUSSIA MOVE CLOSER
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is slated to meet today in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss projects in areas such as energy, infrastructure and technology. “Unofficially, however, the talks are likely to be dominated by their tacit alliance in the Middle East,” reports the Washington Post.

Navalny jailed: Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has been jailed for 15 days over his role in organizing massive anti-corruption protests in Moscow over the weekend. The protests in the capital and in nearly 100 Russian towns and cities “clearly rattled the Kremlin,” the New York Times reports. “But perhaps the biggest surprise, even to protest leaders themselves, was the youthfulness of the crowds.” New York Times, CNN
Related:
The New Yorker: What the Russian Protests Mean for Putin
 
TOP OP-EDS
Goodbye, ISIS. Hello, anarchy. “The military forces that drove ISIS out of the east of Mosul are now competing for influence against one another, rather than cooperating to maintain order,” writes David Kenner and Campbell Macdiarmid in Foreign Policy. “The rivalry among these groups is coming at the expense of efforts to combat Islamic State sleeper cells, which have launched a campaign of suicide bombings in liberated areas.”

No, the travel ban isn’t being used as ISIS propaganda: “The reality is that ISIS has remained conspicuously silent on Trump’s presidency, let alone any of his policies,” writes Simon Cottee in Politico.

Trump’s plan to fight ISIS isn’t the same as Obama’s: “While it’s now abundantly clear that Trump did not know more than the generals or have a secret plan to defeat ISIS, it’s a mistake to suggest that nothing has changed,” writes Joshua Keating in Slate. “Doing so risks brushing aside some of the more disturbing aspects of the Trump approach.”

Trump in the Middle East - the new brutality: “In the opening months of the Donald Trump administration, there has been little sign of a coherent foreign policy taking shape,” writes Ahmed Rashid in the New York Review of Books. “What is happening, however, is a dramatic militarization of US policy in the Middle East—one that is occurring largely without the consultation of American allies, and with hardly any public scrutiny.”
EDITOR'S PICK
 
SOUFAN GROUP
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Murder as an Act of Terrorism in New York




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